Rebecca Enonchong, Founder, AppsTech – Cameroon
Rebecca Enonchong is a technology entrepreneur and advocate who is one of the most recognisable names on the African technology scene. She is the founder and CEO of AppsTech, a global technology provider of enterprise application solutions. She has received widespread recognition for her work championing and promoting technology entrepreneurship in Africa including being named a Global Leader for Tomorrow (GLT) by the World Economic Forum and one of the top female tech founders to watch in Africa by Forbes.
Excerpts below are from her interview with Eunice Baguma Ball, author of the book, Founding Women.
When did you fall in love with technology?
I was working at a hotel in finance and accounting. I happened to have one of the powerful computers because I had to do a lot of financial analysis and modelling. That was when I discovered my love for computers. AS soon as I touched a computer, not to simply play with or write a paper, but to actually deliver something, I thought, “This is so powerful”. I literally fell in love – first with computers, and then with technology in general. I remember I took a part-time job at a computer store and I didn’t make any money because I would spend it all buying stuff from the store. I would take my computer apart and put it back together. I was one of those people who would be in line when a new version of software came out. That’s really how it started. And I’ve never stopped loving technology. I adore it.
Did being African and female ever present any particular barriers or challenges?
All the time. When I started my company, I knew the types of customers I needed were very large companies and I quickly realised that many of them were not going to give such a bog contract to this Black, African woman. So in the beginning I hid behind a corporate structure. For instance, my business cards didn’t have a title. I simply worked for AppsTech. I would walk into a meeting and be a salesperson, engineer or whatever I needed to be at that moment in front of that particular customer. I didn’t lie. I didn’t have to because no one ever thought that it could be my company anyway. Even years later when I started using the title of CEO, most people believed I was just a front for somebody or some other entity. I remember one particular incident where we had a customer service issue with a very important client and I had to get involved. I made a call to the client and my Vice President of Technology Services, who is a white male, was with me. As soon as I started the call the client asked to speak directly with the Vice President. So I let my Vice President lead the call and towards the end he told the client he would need to run what they had discussed by me for approval. It took a bit of back and forth before it sunk in that I was the boss. The client later called me and apologised profusely. I think that’s the only time I’ve ever gotten an apology in these situations. But at the end of the day what matters is your ability to deliver. One of the reasons I love technology is that it is a great equaliser. As long as your solution works and you are able to consistently deliver value to your customers, you will succeed. But it can be tough in the beginning when you are trying to get your foot in the door. So unfortunately, sometimes you may have to fake it till you make it.